Michael Massman and Danny Cruser SYRIAn Arabic Republic
History (1920-1946) • Following nearly 400 years of Ottoman Rule, the Arabic Kingdom of Syria as established • This lasted only a few months, as French troops soon occupied Syria following action by the League of Nations to put the country under French Mandate • WWII lead to the beginnings of a transition of power, and in 1946, internal pressures led the French troops to leave the country • Power left in the hands of a republican government that had been formed under the French
History (1946-1958) • Rapid economic development in post-WWII boom • Series of military coups from 1949 to 1951. Colonel AdibShishakli seize power in 1951, overthrown in 1954 coup • Emergence of Arab Nationalist and Socialist elements lead to a 1958 merge with Egypt to create the United Arab Republic
History (1958-1970 • After a military coup in 1961, the UAR broke about and Syria was reestablished as the SAR • Another series of coups lead to the establishment of National Council of the Revolutionary Command by the Arab Socialist Resurrection Party (Ba’ath Party) • Plans for a federation type unification with Egypt and Iraq were proposed but didn’t go anywhere. President Amin Hafiz establish several institutions commonly found in democracies. • Coups occurred within the Ba’ath party in 1966 and 1970
Hafiz al-Asad • Minister of Defense who led the 1970 coup to become prime minister. • Quickly created governing infrastructure in order to consolidate power. • Formed legislature, elected president, and, in 1973, a new constitution that allowed for the first parliamentary elections since 1962
Asad (1970-2000) • Has faced internal criticism before, often quickly dealt with. • 1970’s – fundamentalist Sunni Muslims • Rejected basic values of secular Ba’ath program • 1976-1982 – Muslim Brotherhood headed an armed insurgency • In 1982, government acted out against oppostion, destroying parts of the city of Hama and killing thousands. • After that, anti-regime activity has been very limited • From 1990 involvement with first Gulf War, change in relations with the Middle East and West
Bashar Al-Asad • In 2000, Hafiz Al-Asad died. The parliament amended to constitution to allow Bashar to run. • Bashar won an unopposed referendum with 97.29% of the vote, reelected in 2007 with 97.6%. • Little to none political reform, limited economic liberalizations
Foreign Relations • Limited cooperation with US post 9/11 deteriorated with the onset of Iraq War • US impose sanctions, freeze certain assets. • Key issues with US and Middle East Neighbors included Iraq War, Lebanon, Hizballah. • Beginning in 2009, US began to engage Syria, Ambassador returned
Government Structure • Constitution grants Ba’ath Party many of the leadership functions of the state. • No official religion (Ba’ath party emphasizes socialism, secularism) but president must be Muslim. • Islamic jurisprudence is the basis for much of the legal system. Also influenced by French and Ottoman legal systems. • Constitution offers many protections but Emergency Law, which suspends these, has been in effect since 1963. • Asad is a member of a minority Shi’a sect; most Syrians are Sunnis. • Military and security services have strong economic and political influence.
Political Conditions • Described by the US State Department as “an authoritarian regime that exhibits only the forms of a democratic system.” • Citizens have the right to vote for the president and parliaments, but can’t oppose or change their government. • Regime’s continuing strength due, in part, to the “army’s continued loyalty and the effectiveness of [the] large security apparatus.
Economic Conditions • Syria is a middle-income, developing country. PPP/c $2314.94 in 1990 to $5107.93 in 2010. 12% below poverty line • Approx. ½ of economy is based on agriculture and oil, with the rest being based on industry, tourism, etc. • Major challenges to growth • Current unemployment estimated between 10 and 14 %
Political Freedoms • Polity Score of -7 • Freedom House described Syria as “Not Free” • Press laws limit Journalistic Freedom • Twitter and Facebook are banned.
The Protests • 15 March – Protests began after a group of school boys were arrested for writing antigovernment graffiti. • 16 March - “Silent” protests over the arrests • 18 March - Demonstrations in Dera’a demanding political freedom and an end to corruption in Syria. • 20 March - People continue to demand an end to Syria’s long-running emergency law banning political opposition. Crowds set fire to headquarters of the Ba’ath Party in Dera’a. • 23 March - Reports of Syrian forces killing six people in an attack on protesters in Dera’a, and later the same day opening fire on hundreds of youths marching in solidarity. FaysalKalthum, regional governor of Dera’a, sacked by President Asad. • 24 March - President Assad’s advisers say the president has ordered the formation of a committee to raise living standards and study scrapping the emergency law. • 25 March - More protests at funeral processions. Many arrested, but believed to have been released
Protests • 26 March - Clashes between security forces and protesters in the coastal city of Latakia kill another 12, according to Syria's state news agency. President Asad deploys the army there the next day. In an attempt to placate protesters, Asad frees 260 prisoners, and 16 more the next day. • 27 March - Army increases its presence in Dera’a. • 28 March - Security forces fire into the air to disperse hundreds of protesters in Dera’a. Reports of pro-government rallies taking place across the country. Amnesty International cites unconfirmed reports saying 37 more people had been killed since 25 March in protests in Damascus, Latakia, Dera’a and elsewhere. • 29 March - Resignation of government following weeks of protests. President Assad appoints former government head Naji al-Otari as the new caretaker prime minister. • 30 March - President Asad delivers a speech for the first time since the protests began, but does not announce any major reforms. • 31 March - Asad orders an investigation into protest deaths in Dera’a and Latakia. The Syrian state news agency says a panel will study and prepare "legislation, including protecting the nation's security and the citizen's dignity… paving the way for lifting the emergency law" by 25 April.
Protests • 1 April - Up to eight people are killed after government forces use live ammunition against protesters in the Damascus suburb of Douma.3 April - President Assad appoints Adel Safar, minister of agriculture in the last cabinet, to form a new government.4 April - Mohammad Khaled al-Hannus appointed governor of Dera’a.8 April - Security forces open fire on protesters across Syria killing as many as 26 people, mostly in Dera’a.10 April - Reports of shooting, many injuries and 200 arrests in the coastal town of Baniyas, 300km northwest of Damascus, following clashes in the area.11 April - Some 500 Damascus university students call for more political freedom. According to the Syrian Human Rights League, opposition figure, writer and journalist Fayez Sara, was arrested, as well as bloggers, activists and young opposition supporters. According to Human Rights Watch, there are reports of beatings and torture inside prisons.
Reactions • https://twitter.com/#!/mohammad_Syria • https://twitter.com/#!/FreeSoria
Discussion Questions 1. Is Syria's situation more similar to that of Egypt or that of Libya? Why? 2. How does the lack of freedom of press affect the protests? 3. Do cultural differences affect the credible commitment problem? How much? 4. What will happen if emergency law concessions are not made by April 25? 5. How does the resource curse affect Syria? 6. Are these protests spurred more by economic unrest or by the want for democracy? Or both? 7. How has Syria’s unique religious situation impacted current events?